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New WHO report warns that there is a global shortage of nurses

The study was compiled before Covid-19 and calls for greater investment in nursing.
Apr 8th 2020, 11:52 AM 14,459 39

THE WORLD IS facing a global shortage of 5.9 million nurses, according to a new report. 

The study, co-written by the World Health Organization (WHO), Nursing Now and the International Council of Nurses, warns that countries around the world are facing a serious shortage of nursing staff – a problem that could worsen in the years to come.

It looked at data from 191 countries and from nearly 30 million nurses. 

The report poses a stark warning to a healthcare sector in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, with a particular warning that high-income countries have an “excessive reliance” on the ability on nurses to travel from other countries. 

“Countries with lower numbers of early career nurses as a proportion of those approaching retirement will have to increase graduate numbers and strengthen retention packages to maintain access to health services,” the report warns. 

The President of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Martina Harkin Kelly, said that “many warnings on staffing were not heeded before this pandemic”. 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, there had been repeated warnings in that the HSE was leaving hundreds of nursing and midwifery posts vacant because of a recruitment freeze.

“We cannot allow a global nursing shortage to hamper our response to future public health emergencies. This report must be the basis for immediate action in Ireland and globally to support the retention of nurses,” she said. 

The report’s findings indicate that there was a 4.7 million increase in the number of nurses worldwide between 2013 and 2018 and that 90% of nurses are women. 

However, it warns that one in six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years. 

Countries with fewer nurses, the report says, would need to increase the number of yearly nursing graduates by nearly 9% until 2030. 

In a statement, the WHO General Secretary Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said that “the world needs to learn from Covid-19 that it is essential to invest more in nursing”.

“This report is a stark reminder of the unique role nurses play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy,” he said. 

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Dominic McGrath

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